Music lovers in Watrous are in for a treat this Friday night as the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils (OSAC) concert series returns with the first show of the fall. Brenda Lee Cottrell is a seasoned performer who pays homage to the great ladies of music in her one woman show. From country music pioneers Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline to more contemporary artists like Celine Dion and Whitney Houston, who helped define a generation of pop, Cottrell winds her way through musical history laced with memories and her own musical touch.
Cottrell originally hails from Melville, where growing up, she listened to her parents' favourite artists. Her earliest musical experiences were in the choir in her church and as a pipe organist over the span of 20 or so years.
“Of course, growing up with my parents and listening to the wonderful influences of Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline, my household was always filled with music,” Cottrell explains. “My dad was an accordion player, so with our musical intertwinings, I really gravitated to the “old” - as I like to call it, the classic artists. I guess I consider myself an old soul.”
Those classics like Cline’s “Crazy” and “Walking After Midnight” logically found their way into her repertoire as she began singing at Relay for Life events in Regina where Cottrell and her husband were stage managers for about 12 years. At the suggestion of her husband, Cottrell performed a set of exclusively Patsy Cline numbers, working to capture the nuances of Cline’s rich vocal style. From there, the duo started experimenting with tributes to other classic country and pop performers. Soon artists like Leslie Gore (“It’s My Party”) and Petula Clark (“Downtown”) made their way into the tribute sets, eventually evolving into an entire show.
“We started adding some modern ladies to the show like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion and rifling back to Olivia Newton-John, Etta James, Aretha Franklin. There’s so much great music out there - I love the variety. When a song moves me, I can really interpret it and get into the music.”
Cottrell says she confines her efforts to ladies to whom she feels she can do justice with her voice and interpretive style. The other constant in her performances is the undeniably staying power of the music. It’s a blend that has an appeal for everyone.
“The mark of solid music is if it can sustain the years and transfer from one generation to the next. When you have young people in the audience singing along to “It’s My Party” by Leslie Gore, you know you’ve done your job because you’re keeping the music alive by people rediscovering it - or perhaps discovering it for the first time.”
Cottrell’s roots go back to inspirational music, and it led her to release her own original pieces in a compilation.
“I originally wanted to write music in the same genre as in my show, but as fate would have it, I was inspired to write different music, and I’m very very excited that I’ve done it and it’s out there.”
The music is available on Cottrell’s website and alternatively at PrayPrayPray.net where the entire album is available.
Cottrell performs on Friday, October 28 at the Watrous Civic Centre. Showtime is at 7:30 and ticket information is available from the OSAC website. Cottrell performs the following night in Macklin.